Ford Escape Transfer Case Troubleshooting

by Wesley Tucker
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The Escape is Ford's smaller SUV offering. Replacing the venerable Bronco, the Escape offers the same off-road and heavy hauling 4-wheel drive option found in earlier Ford trucks. The Escape's transmission and drive train uses a rugged and dependable Borg-Warner 1354 two-speed transfer case to alternate between 2- and 4-wheel drive.

Power Loss

If you switch from 2- to 4-wheel drive and either do not feel the additional power, or lose power after engaging, the transfer case is not adequately supplying power to the rear wheels. A quick way to diagnose the problem is drive the Escape on a grade of more than 5 percent and switch the drive from two to four wheels. If you feel no change in the Escape's engine sound (similar to a downshift) or if there is no change in the RPM indicator on the dashboard (the tachometer), then the transfer case is malfunctioning.


It's important to first determine if the problem with choosing either drive is the transfer case or the transmission. If the Escape runs smoothly with either drive selection but has difficulty or will not change from one drive to the other, the transfer case is the source of your problem. If, however, there are issues with changing gears, accelerating or clutch action in manual transmission-equipped Escapes, it might be the transmission that requires repair, not necessarily the transfer case.

Fluid Leak

Investigate any leaking fluid under the Escape after parking. Both the transmission and the transfer case use transmission fluid as a lubricant and as a coolant. Check for the location of the leak. The transmission is located forward under the car, and abuts directly onto the engine. The transfer case is positioned toward the rear of the vehicle over the transaxle. When engaged, it transfers power from just the front wheels to all four wheels. Any leaking of viscous fluid from this unit can lead to problems with gear changes, as well as metal damage to the gears and shafts.


The Escape's dashboard has a manual control for shifting the car from 2- to 4-wheel high or low drive. When changing the selection, you will see the tachometer (measuring RPMs) jump in either direction. If there is no change, you can assume the actual dashboard control is not functioning properly. Before disassembling the dashboard and replacing parts, check the fuse box and the fuse controlling the 2- to 4-wheel drive mechanism. A simple fix like replacing a blown fuse can remedy the problem in short order.

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